Iberia is a Rundle Street restaurant and bar that updates Spanish and Portuguese plates with respect and flair.
Tapas is one of those menu words that is casually thrown around, from cafes and pubs trying encourage communal sharing, to bars attempting to convince patrons to stick around and snack on smaller dishes rather than depart for a meal elsewhere. It’s a trend that has bastardised the few cuisines that take this progressive style of dining seriously.
Iberia is not one of those places. The new-ish city venue captures the nuances of Spanish and Portuguese gastronomy but is uniquely and unashamedly South Australian, highlighting the best of our state’s produce with an ever-evolving menu. Their kitchen garden ensures continuous supply of staples and seasonal ingredients and they make a point of knowing their Adelaide Hills neighbours including producers and wineries.
A few sips of Unico Zelo’s Esoterico leads us into the opening series of dishes from a menu that separates single items from smaller and larger plates with a no-fuss approach. Sheep milk Manchego cheese is shaved over a carrot chutney that is reminiscent of marmalade, combining earthiness with sweet, bitter and sticky flavours — a simple yet effective offering.
This is followed by a duo of prawns nestled in a thick and punchy cocktail sauce and coated in an herbaceous medley of marinated cucumber. Two prawns are not nearly enough but we are quickly distracted by a plate of freshly shaved jamon serrano accompanied by a couple of bite-sized fried bread segments coated in fresh tomato. A DIY exercise in sandwich construction ensues and we’re thankful for leftover Manchego to add to the mix.
Boquerones are white anchovies, beautifully plated with broad beans and slivers of radish, all swimming in a pool of buttermilk. Seasoning is offered by the salty fillets and the vegetables add crunch to this updated version of a Spanish classic. This could do without the added broad bean tendrils that add a residual bitterness to this otherwise balanced dish.
Next, pink rounds of potato are layered beneath shaved goat’s cheese and roughly chopped herbs, with a bright egg yolk at its peak, just waiting to be broken. Vongole showcases clams from Port Lincoln along with mussels that are stacked around a central heart of iceberg lettuce. Though this dish is often served with spaghetti, Iberia’s is another fresh take on a generally heavy classic. The addition of a nicely seasoned gazpachuelo in place of a standard stock soaks into the lettuce heart and demonstrates yet another way that this kitchen combines flavours and separate dishes to round out each composition.
The culmination of this journey around the Iberian coastline is another classic that despite its simplicity has reached a cult-like following since the Portuguese tart was first produced by the monks of Lisbon in the early 1800s. The Portuguese are very serious about their traditional custard tart, and Iberia’s version pays the utmost respect to its rich, eggy history.
Some may come for the food but others will come for the drink, and Iberia, like its namesake region, is split into very distinct areas. A dark and sultry underground basement is reminiscent of a Spanish bodega, upstairs a narrow, buzzy space for atmospheric dining, and at ground level, spilling out onto the Rundle Street terraza, is a delicious combination of both.
279 Rundle Street
Tuesday to Sunday
Photography: Sia Duff